Even in the heat of summer and a pandemic, there are still safe ways to reduce water use and save money. Here are five tips for reducing water use.
- Turn it off outside
A lawn and garden can consume up to 70 percent of a household water bill during warm summer months. But there are ways to drastically reduce this usage. Start by planting native varieties of vines, grasses, flowers, bushes and trees. This will eliminate the need for chemical fertilizing, which will reduce the contamination of water runoff from rain into the sewer system or water table. After they are established in the garden, natives should rarely require additional watering. Use generous amounts of compost and mulch in all garden beds to retain moisture, reducing the need for watering. Use soaker hoses or drip irrigation systems, which are 20 percent more efficient than sprinklers. Apply water early in the morning to minimize evaporation. Replace a leaky hose connection with a no-drip option that is leak proof.
- Change your habits
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates the average household of four uses up to 400 gallons of fresh water each day and spends as much as $600 per year on water and sewer bills. A change in personal habits can lower that number. Start by taking short showers instead of baths. It takes about 30 gallons of water to fill the average tub, compared to 15 gallons of water for a five-minute shower. A teenager in the family can skew this savings, with the average shower lasting 45 minutes (or until the hot water runs out). Turn off the faucet when brushing your teeth (saving 1,500 gallons a year). When shaving, fill the sink with water to rinse a razor, instead of letting the water run.
- Update water fixtures
Use less water by installing aerators on all household faucets and low-flow showerheads in the bathrooms and save 2,300 to 7,000 gallons of water per year. A low-flow (1.28 gallons per flush) WaterSense rated toilet could save a family of four more than $90 a year compared to older models that use five gallons or more per flush. If your toilet has been around since the 1980s or longer, it could use up to seven gallons per flush. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, 73 percent of the water used at home is either flushed down the toilet or washed down the shower drain.
- Make a mechanical fix
That annoying leaking or running toilet can waste as much as 200 gallons of water per day. An easy way to check for leakage is to put a few drops of food coloring in the toilet tank. If the color begins to appear in the bowl without flushing, then the toilet is leaking and it’s time for a repairman or replacement. Often, the labor charge is the same for toilet repair and toilet replacement, so a leak can be an inducement to purchase a newer, more efficient toilet.
- Rein in your rainwater
Capturing rainwater in a rain barrel is one of the easiest, most satisfying ways to save water and provide your garden with a chlorine-free drink. A one-inch rain can provide 600 gallons of water runoff from a 1,000-square-foot roof. That’s enough to fill more than 10 rain barrels. Bridging The Gap offers rain barrels for $65. Call 816-561-1087 to purchase. Rain-barrel kits and assembled barrels can be found at local garden centers. When you install a qualifying garden rain barrel, or native tree in your Johnson County, KS landscape, you are not only helping the environment by reducing stormwater runoff and creating natural habitats for pollinators and other wildlife, you could also be eligible to receive a refund for up to 50 percent of the installation and material cost through a Contain the Rain program.
Photo: Amy Stanley